October 23, 2019

On Senate Floor, Ranking Member Klobuchar Calls for Immediate Consideration of New Legislation to Stop Foreign Interference in our Elections

In remarks on the floor of the Senate, Klobuchar asked for unanimous consent that the Senate proceed to the immediate consideration of the SHIELD Act 

The Stopping Harmful Interference in Elections for a Lasting Democracy (SHIELD) Act includes three Klobuchar provisions to secure U.S elections, including the Honest Ads Act, PAID Ads Act, and Deceptive Practices and the Voter Intimidation Prevention Act    

The House of Representatives is expected to pass companion legislation today 

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Ranking Member of the Senate Rules Committee with jurisdiction over federal elections, introduced new legislation to stop foreign interference in our elections. The Stopping Harmful Interference in Elections for a Lasting Democracy (SHIELD) Act includes three Klobuchar provisions to secure U.S elections, including the Honest Ads Act, PAID AD Act, and Deceptive Practices and the Voter Intimidation Prevention Act. In remarks on the floor of the Senate, Klobuchar asked for unanimous consent that the Senate proceed to the immediate consideration of the SHIELD Act. Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) objected. The House of Representatives is expected to pass companion legislation today.

“This is the second time that I have come to the floor this week to urge the Senate to take action on election security legislation. It has been 1006 days since Russia attacked us in 2016, something that has been confirmed by all of President Trump’s top intelligence agencies. In fact former Director Coats actually said they’re getting bolder,” Klobuchar said in remarks from the Senate floor.

“The next major elections are just three hundred seventy seven days away. We must take action now to secure our elections. I know that Senator Wyden will be addressing the actual hacking of our election equipment, which is so important as well as other issues, but I am focused on this propaganda issue, this disinformation campaign that we have seen from the Russians and the Honest Ads Act, which is part of the bill that I will be asking for consent on, the SHIELD Act - which is going to be passed by the House today. It includes a number of measures, including provisions to:

“Close loopholes to stop foreign spending on issue ads in our elections, boost disclosure and transparency requirements, and help stop bad actors from using deceptive practices to mislead voters. Now that may all sound like a list of policy issues, but let me just make it very specific.

“Here's one example of literally millions. In the last election an ad was discovered that was paid for in rubles. It had been paid for in rubles before the election and happened and we did not know about it too long after the election. It was the face of an African-American woman, an innocent woman in Chicago. She later called our office and said, ‘I don't know where they got my face.’ They put her face on a Facebook ad that went to African-American Facebook pages in swing states. This is what the Russians did. Her picture was there and it said, ‘Don't wait in line to vote for Hillary Clinton. You can text your vote at...’ and it gave a five digit number. That's a crime. That’s a crime because they're suppressing the vote. They're telling a voter to cast their vote in a way that will not register the vote. That is what we're talking about here, propaganda.

“And yeah, it hurt one side in this 2016 election, but the next time it could be someone else on the other side of the aisle. Fundamental to our democracy and our founding fathers was this simple idea that we would determine our fate in America. That we would not let foreign powers influence our elections. That is what this is about. It's about protecting our election hardware and infrastructure, but it is also about protecting us from this disinformation campaign.

“All of this really bad stuff and I don't think my colleagues are interested in protecting the big social media companies, I hope this isn't their goal.

“I hope that their goal is to protect Americans so that they can determine their own fate in an election. So with that I ask that the Senate proceed to the immediate consideration of S.2669, the Stopping Harmful Interference in Elections for a Lasting Democracy. Otherwise known as the SHIELD Act which was introduced earlier today. Further that the bill be considered, read three times and passed. And the motion to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table with no intervening action or debate."

President: “Is there objection?”

Senator Blackburn: “Mr. President, I object.”

“That's very unfortunate given how soon the elections are and what a difference we could make, what a difference we could make, especially with the disinformation campaigns. And I hope my colleagues change their mind. The Honest Ads Act is a bipartisan bill.  A bipartisan bill with Senator Graham, the chair, Republican chair of the Judiciary Committee. And we must act. Thank you. I yield the floor.”

The SHIELD Act is cosponsored in the Senate by Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Patty Murray (D-WA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Tina Smith (D-MN), Van Hollen (D-MD), Mark Warner (D-VA), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).

Klobuchar has been a leader in the fight to protect our elections from foreign interference and secure our election infrastructure. Earlier this year, Klobuchar reintroduced the Honest Ads Act with Senator Mark Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence, and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, to help prevent foreign interference in future elections and improve the transparency of online political advertisements. Russia attempted to influence the 2016 presidential election by buying and placing political ads on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Google. The content and purchaser(s) of those online advertisements are a mystery to the public because of outdated laws that have failed to keep up with evolving technology. The Honest Ads Act would prevent foreign actors from influencing our elections by ensuring that political ads sold online are covered by the same rules as ads sold on TV, radio, and satellite.

Klobuchar and Warner also introduced the Preventing Adversaries Internationally from Disbursing Advertising Dollars (PAID AD) Act to expand the scope of the prohibition on political activity by foreign nationals. The legislation would amend the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) to prevent foreign nationals from purchasing broadcast, cable, satellite, or digital communications naming a candidate for office at any point in time, and prevents foreign governments and foreign lobbyists from buying issue ads. 

In June, Klobuchar and Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) introduced the Deceptive Practices and Voter Intimidation Act calling for federal action against voter intimidation and deceptive practices designed to stop Americans from voting. Historically, certain citizens, especially racial and ethnic minorities, were prevented from voting because of significant barriers like literacy tests and poll taxes. While constitutional amendments and voting rights legislation have removed some of the systemic barriers to voting, new tactics emerge every election cycle to suppress voter participation by intimidating or intentionally misleading voters.

In May, Klobuchar introduced the Election Security Act (ESA) which now has 40 cosponsors. Her bills would require backup paper ballots, provide $1 billion in election security grants to states for cybersecurity improvements and audits, strengthen the federal response to election security interference, and establish accountability measures for election technology vendors.

Klobuchar has also led on other election security legislation including the Combatting Foreign Influence ActDigital Citizenship and Media Literacy ActInvest in Our Democracy Act, and Global Electoral Exchange Act.

Klobuchar has sent numerous letters urging departments, agencies, and private companies to improve election security. In June, she sent a letter with Senator Wyden (D-OR) to the FBI asking them to clarify the steps they’ve taken to investigate problems with VR Systems, an election systems vendor that has undergone speculations of hacking in the 2016 election. In April, she led a letter to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and FBI, urging them to establish a task force combining the efforts of social media platforms, local election officials, and also reporters and independent researchers, in finding and stopping disinformation and misinformation campaigns. In March, Klobuchar sent a letter to the three biggest voting machine companies in the U.S. asking tough questions about election security. Klobuchar has also sent numerous letters to the DHS and its Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), urging them to prioritize election security measures.

For footage of Klobuchar’s remarks, click HERE.

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